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"Growing Up Amish" by Ira Wagler is his memoir of his rebellious teen years. During that time he left his Amish home repeatedly, only to keep coming back in misguided attempts to make his Amish heritage "stick". He joined the church and left. Came back, repented, asked forgiveness, and was taken back in. Then he left again. He finally left for good around age 26, when he managed to get his head on straight and leave for the right reasons rather than just rebellion. It would have been more interesting if he'd been able to articulate what exactly it was about the Amish life he didn't like so much. He was like, oh I wanted to leave so I left. Well, okay, but *why*? At any rate, I hope he's happy with the decisions he's made since leaving for good.

Robert Kirkman's "Walking Dead Vol. 21: All Out War Part 2" finds Rick's team gearing up for one final showdown with Neegan. It ends with Rick capturing Neegan. Many of his group want to kill him, but Rick successfully argues for his lifelong imprisonment instead and the two groups agree to work together to rebuild. It's about time, too, I've been hoping Walking Dead would eventually reach the point where they stop running and start rebuilding society. I think that's interesting. I hope the TV show follows suit :)

"The King's Curse" by Philippa Gregory is the sixth in her Cousin's War series. It follows the life of Lady Margaret Pole, born a Plantagenet and cousin to Henry VII's wife, Elizabeth. She is married off to a minor knight and loyal supporter of the King. Lady Margaret is there when Prince Arthur dies, and swears to Princess Katherine that she will do anything it takes to see her married to Prince Henry and on the throne of England, so when the subject comes up of if Arthur and Katherine consummated their marriage, Margaret did a palms up and refused to say more. Henry VII dies, and his son, one of the most evil tyrants the world has seen, Henry VIII, takes the throne and marries Katherine. Margaret is there when their baby sons die, one after the other, and is Princess Mary's governess. She is there when Henry throws aside his true wife for Anne Boleyn. She is there for all of it, until Henry throws her in the tower and cuts off her head, a little old lady in her sixties, simply because he could. It was very moving and nicely done.

I was at the Long Beach Comic Con a few weekends ago, and I saw this comic. I used to read Archies all the time as a kid, I still have a bunch. I had to see how poor Archie met his end. He died saving a friend from a bullet, in true Archie style. It made me want to go back and reread some of my old ones.







"Supernatural Enhancements" by Edgar Centero was suitably spooky for this time of year. I love the cover! So, A. is a young twenty something European lad who discovers, in 1995, that he had a second cousin twice removed in America who has died, committed suicide, actually, by jumping out of a window the exact same way his father before him did. Since Ambrose Wells never married, A. is his closest heir. A. comes to Virginia to see the mansion left to him, bringing along his mute companion, a teenage girl named Niamh. They start digging into the clues Ambrose left behind for his butler, who fled the scene before A. showed up. Ambrose was a bit of a hermit who seemed to devote his life to research of some sort, and every year at the Winter Solstice a group of his fellow researchers would show up at the house for several days. What they did no one seems to know. Very odd things keep happening, like light bulbs bursting, shadows in the tub, and wicked nightmares. The house is of course haunted, but in a very unusual way. It was very good and quite creepy, I enjoyed it.

"Too Big to Miss" by Sue Ann Jaffarian is the first in a series starring a plus size paralegal named Odelia Grey. I really enjoyed it: it had a touch of humor without being disrespectful towards the dead or big ladies. One of Odelia's good friends, Sophie, kills herself while on a webcam for her website, which catered to men with fetishes for big girls. Odelia didn't know she ran such a website, but she does know Sophie wouldn't have just committed suicide like that--someone must have drove her to it. The more she digs the more she discovers how little she really knew Sophie, how many secrets she was really keeping.


"Boleyn Reckoning" by Laura Andersen was the third of her trilogy. I didn't really care for the whole series. I really felt she had the opportunity to do something fun with William and his sister Elizabeth. If Elizabeth isn't going to be queen, marry her off, have William marry someone interesting, I don't know, do something other than basically have it come out the way it did in real life. Anyway, Minuette and Dominic's secret marriage is found out and William is livid. He banishes them and has Dominic arrested and thrown in the tower. He kills his sister's favorite, Robert Dudley, and then ends up dying in battle. Elizabeth becomes queen anyway, but without her Sweet Robin, which I'm sure would have made her an even more bitter and angry person than she already was.

Book #3, "Trixie Belden and the Gatehouse Mystery" by Julie Campbell is another one of my favorites (I remember the early ones better because I've read them so many times). It's late summer after Honey has moved in next door, Jim is safely ensconced in the Wheeler household, and Mart and Brian are finally back from summer camp. The kids form a club after cleaning up the Wheeler's old gatehouse and call themselves the Bob-Whites of the Glen. Trixie and Honey found a diamond in the gatehouse, and they're sure one of the Wheeler's new employees is the thief who lost it. Trixie suspects Dick the new chauffeur right away, but it takes some convincing to get the rest of the Bob-Whites on board.

"Fables Vol. 19: Snow White" by Bill Willingham has Bigby gone in search of their two missing children. While he's gone, Prince Brandish shows up the newly rebuilt Fabletown, insisting that he and Snow White were married under ancient rules and the marriage is still valid. He has gone to a lot of trouble to enchant himself with protective spells, so whatever damage anyone does to him hurts Snow White instead. Ghost is able to find his father and bring him back to save Snow White, but Prince Brandish turns Bigby into a glass wolf and shatters him. Snow is able to kill him once the Fabletown witches undo his protective spells, but is Bigby gone forever? I sure hope not.

Book #14, "Trixie Belden and the Mystery of the Emeralds" by Katherine Kenny (Julie Campbell stopped writing them after book #6, and Random House used a group of in house writers under the name of Katherine Kenny to finish it out, which is why there are inconsistencies in the later books) was one that I didn't remember the finer details of. Trixie finds an old letter in their attic, discussing an emerald necklace hidden in a Southern estate. Luckily, the Lynches were planning a trip to Virginia and because Mr. Lynch is awesome, he lets Di bring all her friends along. In Virginia they are quickly able to discover the estate mentioned in the letter, but it's owned by a very shifty man who is also on the hunt for the emeralds. Who will find them first?? :)

 Another reread, book 4 of the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris, "Dead to the World". I think this one is my favorite. Sookie is driving home late one night from work and she sees Eric out wandering. He has been cursed by a group of witches and lost his memory. Sookie takes him home for safekeeping and lets Pam know where he is. Pam asks her to keep him safe there, since no one will look for him, while she tries to figure out a way to undo the witches' curse. Sookie reluctantly agrees, but soon discovers that Eric without his memory is a sweet, kind man. Unfortunately, her brother Jason has disappeared. He was dating a werepanther from Hotshot, and they discover a panther print and blood on his deck. Plus, Debbie Pelt is still pissed that her boyfriend, Alcide, has the hots for Sook and is after her. Poor Sookie can't seem to catch a break.

Lawrence Block's "A Walk Among the Tombstones" was excellent. Matt Scudder is an ex-cop turned private detective. He gets a call from Kenan Khoury, a drug trafficker. Two men kidnapped his wife and called demanding a million dollar ransom. Kenan talked them down to $400,000, delivered the money, and they sent his wife back to him in pieces. Kenan would like Matt's help in tracking them down. Matt agrees to take the case and goes to work trying to find out things while Kenan calls associates in the business to warn them to keep their wives safe. A few weeks later Yuri calls Kenan: his twelve year old daughter has been kidnapped and a million dollar ransom has been demanded. Set in the early '90s, before cell phones, it was amazing how Matt and his tech savvy street friends were able to accomplish tracking down the bad guys. Taunt, suspenseful, with a great gritty ending.

I love Rainbow Rowell. I really, truly do. She's so amazingly awesome. "Landline" was just brilliant. Georgie has to stay in L.A. over Christmas to work on her TV pilot, since a major network is interested. She and her husband, Neal, argue, since they had plans to go back to Omaha to visit his mom. Neal has given up everything for Georgie's dreams, and he doesn't think she appreciates him. Georgie *does*, she just doesn't have the time to show him. Neal takes their two daughters and goes to Omaha, leaving Georgie behind in L.A. to work on her show with her best friend Seth. She can't concentrate, though, worrying that her marriage is ending. She ends up going to her Mom's house rather than driving home to an empty house, and because her cell phone is dead, she digs out an old phone and plugs it into the landline and calls Neal's mom's house. She reaches Neal, but the Neal of 1998, 15 earlier, before they married. That was the last time they'd broken up. Neal went to Omaha without her that Christmas, and they didn't speak all week. Then he showed up at her house Christmas morning and proposed. Georgie is stunned when she realizes she's talking to the Neal of the past. Should she keep talking to him? Convince him to not marry her in the first place so he'd be better off? Then it occurs to her--what if Neal proposed 15 years ago BECAUSE she talked to him that week from 15 years in the future? It was so lovely, and touching, I really enjoyed it.

Trixie! I was in the mood for a fun laugh, and "The Mystery Off Old Glen Road" is my favorite one in the series. I love that the mystery is actually just a series of escalating misunderstandings, the result of keeping secrets. It just seems very realistic, unlike catching bank robbers and diamond thieves. The Bob-Whites have just finished getting their clubhouse all in order when a nasty storm downs a tree and rips out the ceiling and part of a wall. Brian gives up his $50 car fund to buy supplies to fix the clubhouse, and Trixie gives Mr. Lytell her diamond ring to hold the car for Brian until the club can earn the money to pay Brian back. In order to convince her dad to get the ring out of the safety deposit box, Trixie has to pretend to be in love with Honey's cousin Ben, who is spending the Thanksgiving holiday with the Wheelers. Meanwhile, their game keeper has quit, so the Bob-Whites talk Miss Trask into letting them take the job over the holiday so they can earn the $50. While out patrolling, Honey and Trixie are sure they are hot on the trail of a poacher! It's such good fun. I'm sorry Trixie wasn't more popular.

"We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves" by Karen Joy Fowler was a complex book, but interesting. Rosemary was raised with a chimp named Fern  the same age as her until she was 5, and science experiment run by her dad. At the age of five, Fern is sent away and the Cooke's lives are turned upside down. Lowell, Rosemary's older brother, is upset by her dad using Fern and disposing of her so callously, and runs away to try to break Fern out of the lab where she's being held. Lowell ends up becoming a domestic terrorist, wanted by the FBI for his work freeing lab animals. Rosemary doesn't see him for years, since he's on the run.


 I really enjoyed Jenny Han's "The Summer I Turned Pretty". Belly (real name Isabel) spends every summer with her mom and her older brother Steven at a beach house with her mom's best friend Susannah and her two sons: Conrad and Jeremiah. Belly has had a crush on Conrad for years, but the boys have always treated her like the tag-along little sister until now. Belly is almost 16 and has bloomed into a beautiful young woman. Through flashbacks to previous summers, Belly shares her special moments with Conrad and Jeremiah. This summer is different. Susannah is dying. It was sweet and tender and I really enjoyed it.


"Queen Elizabeth's Daughter" by Anne Clinard Barnhill was pretty forgettable. Fictionalized life of Mary Shelton, a ward of Queen Elizabeth (and cousin), Elizabeth has brought her up, groomed her for a life of luxury and is disappointed when Mary falls in love with John Skydemore, a widower with five children. She forbids their marriage, but Mary defies her and weds John anyway. When Elizabeth finds out, she overreacts in typical Tudor fashion, banishing Mary from court and arresting John for treason and throwing him in the tower. Mary is able to beg forgiveness from the Queen and free John, but they never really have a life together, since the Queen insists Mary stay with her at court always. Like I said, pretty forgettable.

When I realized there were two more books after "The Summer I Turned Pretty", I was dying to read them. I was pretty disappointed, though. Neither one held the charm of the first. In the second one, "It's Not Summer Without You", Belly and Conrad have broken up after only about six months of long distance dating, after a disastrous prom. Conrad is pulling away as Susannah is dying, and after she dies he completely shuts down. Conrad disappears from school and Jeremiah enlists Belly's help in finding him. Of course he's at the summer house, which their father is threatening to sell now that his wife is dead. It just felt really forced and completely ridiculous for Conrad to treat Belly the way he did.

And then the last one, "We'll Always Have Summer", was just as bad. Belly has been dating Jeremiah, and they are at the same college together. Belly finds out he cheated on her over spring break and is devastated, but Jeremiah apologizes and proposes. They decide to get married in August at the beach house. Their parents are of course opposed to a marriage so young, but they go about planning it anyway. Conrad confesses to Belly the night before the wedding that he still loves her, and she realizes she's too confused about how she feels to marry Jeremiah. They call off the wedding and she ends up marrying Conrad a few years later. Yawn.


I'm going to see the great James Ellroy speak at the end of October, so I've been trying to finish the L.A. Quartet. I read the first one, "The Black Dahlia", years ago. The second one, "The Big Nowhere" was gritty and dark, classic Ellroy. A brutal murder has officer Danny Upshaw combing gay bars, looking for a middle aged man with a predilection for heroin. At the same time, a task force is being assembled to bring down the Communist menace, and Upshaw has been asked to go undercover to seduce one of the women involved to see if he can get some evidence. Whole lotta blood, death, cold hearted killings, and incest of the worst sort made this one a gore fest, and it was great.


I love Mickey Spillane. I miss Mickey Spillane. "King of the Weeds" was great fun. Before his war buddy Marcus Dooley died, he told Mike Hammer where he'd stashed the 89 billion dollars he'd stole from the mob. Now everyone's after Hammer, trying to figure out where the loot is at. Also, a 40 year old murder is being reopened, threatening Pat's career. He arrested (with some help from Mike) Rudy Olaf for the murder of several bums, but now Olaf's old friend Henry Brogan is copping to the kills, complete with the long lost murder weapon. Brogan is, conveniently, dying, and Hammer suspects Olaf has made a deal with him that he'll take care of his grandkids with the fat payout he's getting from the city for 40 years of wrongful imprisonment. Good stuff.

And finally, another Sookie reread. "Club Dead" by Charlaine Harris is the third book in the series. Bill is working on a mysterious project for the queen of Louisiana when he is kidnapped. Eric suspects the king of Mississippi and asks Sookie to go to Jackson with a werewolf bodyguard, Alcide, who has access to Club Dead, where vampires and werewolves hang out. Sookie goes with Alcide to find out what she can about where Bill might be being held, even though she is angry when she discovers he's been cheating on her with Lorena, a vampire, and is planning on leaving her. Sookie is injured in the club while saving the king of Mississippi's right hand lady, and Russell takes her back to his compound to be healed. While there Sookie finds out where Bill is at, rescues him, and gets to kill Lorena in the process before heading back to Bon Temps.

Monica Nolan's hilarious LGBT parody of the hard boiled crime fiction of the '40s and '50s, "Maxie Mainwaring, Lesbian Dilettante" was a bit outside my normal fiction tastes, but it had such a fun cover I couldn't resist. Maxie is an ex-deb living in Bay City in the late 1960s. She survives on an allowance from her trust fund, until her society matron mom catches her kissing a girl in the country club bathroom and cuts off her funds. Maxie flits from job to job, angering her budget conscious girlfriend, Pamela, and eventually they break up. Maxie sees some mob activity and gets caught up investigating, trying to get to the bottom of it, especially since it seems like her parents are caught up in it and her trust fund is at stake. It was light and fun.


On the opposite end of "light and fun" was "This House is Haunted" by John Boyne. I really liked this one, it was spooky and creepy. Written in Dicksonian style of the 1800s, Eliza takes a job as a governess in the country after her father dies unexpectedly. When she arrives at Gaudlin Hall, there are no adults in residence, just two precocious kids, Eustace and his older sister Isabelle. Eliza presses everyone in the village for answers, like what in the heck happened to their parents, and finally gets their lawyer to explain: a year earlier, their father hired a governess, greatly upsetting his wife. She killed the governess one night and almost killed her husband, too. She hanged for her crime, but her spirit is back, protecting her children. Eliza is the sixth governess in a year, the first four are dead and the fifth barely managed to escape with her life. It was very, very good and I loved the chilling ending.

Graham Joyce's "The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit" was a bit of a ghost story as well, but not as dark as Boyne. David, a college student, takes a summer job at a beach resort that happens to be in the seaside town where his father committed suicide when he was three. All around town, David keeps seeing a man in a suit, holding a little boy's hand. David gets involved with a married woman, despite being terrified of her violent and abusive husband. It was a good story.




Lois Duncan's "Daughters of Eve" was really dated, but I enjoyed it. Written in the '70s, a group of girls in a high school are feeling oppressed by the men in their lives. Ruth's older brothers don't have to help out after school, but Ruth has to come straight home everyday to clean up, start dinner, and babysit. Bambi's boyfriend is overly controlling. Jane's dad beats her mom. The girls are part of an exclusive club known as the Daughters of Eve. Their faculty adviser, Irene Stark, encourages the girls to get revenge on the men that are keeping them down. I guess it was supposed to be a warning tale of feminism run amok, but honestly, the men were pretty darn awful in this book. I thought they all got what they deserved :)

So the last Georgia book by Louise Rennison finds Masimo sad about the Stiff Dylans going to London but determined to stay behind for Georgia, which makes Georgia feel bad because she's not entirely sure how much she really likes him. In the end, she tells Masimo to go and she and Dave the Laugh finally start going out together. Huzzah!






"The City" by Dean Koontz was pretty darn good, kind of spooky. In an unnamed city in the late 1960s, a young boy, Jonah, lives in an apartment building with his mom, who sings at a nightclub. His grandfather plays the piano, and so does Jonah. His good for nothing deadbeat dad finally seems to be out of their lives when a mysterious and very dangerous woman moves into the building, threatening both Jonah and a mild mannered man living on the fifth floor, Mr. Yoshioka. When she finally moves out they are both relieved, but the weirdness and threats don't end. Jonah and his mom move in with his granddad. What I took away from this book was that cities themselves are not inherently evil, but the people who reside in them can be.

I read the Sookie Stackhouse books already, but after the show True Blood ended on HBO, I felt like reading them again. This is the first one, and it's pretty good. Sookie is a telepath, and as a result she hasn't lived a very normal life. She's excited when Bon Temps gets their first vampire, Bill Compton. She can't read his mind, so she doesn't have to be bombarded by his thoughts. They start dating, and it seems like the locals are just getting used to Vampire Bill when young women known as "fangbangers" start turning up dead. Then Sookie's own beloved grandmother is murdered. Everyone seems to think it was Bill. Luckily in the end it was Rene, Arlene's second husband and current boyfriend.


The second Sookie book by Charlaine Harris finds Sookie being lent out by Eric to a nest of vampires in Dallas. One of them has gone missing, and Eric promises Sookie's mind reading capabilities to help them find him. Sookie does: he's being held prisoner by the Fellowship of the Sun, a cult that believes vampires are evil. Also, Lafayette has been brutally murdered (damn good thing HBO had the good sense not to kill off LaLa, otherwise, things would have been bad) and found in Andy's car. Portia, Andy's sister, is trying to find out who killed Lafayette so she can clear her brother's name.

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